Joe Maneri with Mat Maneri, Barre Phillips & Randy Peterson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joe Maneri with Mat Maneri, Barre Phillips & Randy Peterson


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For four decades Boston reedist Joe Maneri has been developing an intensely idiosyncratic microtonal approach to improvisation. For most of that time he's been hidden away in academia, teaching at the New England Conservatory of Music; he didn't begin touring and recording regularly until the mid-90s. Several percussionists have found a way into Maneri's music, but his 72-tone scale--a conventional octave covers just 12--has generally proved too daunting for improvisers who play notes; over the years he's recorded with only a tiny handful, including his violinist son, Mat. On a recently released trio date with both Maneris, Tales of Rohnlief (ECM), great American expatriate bassist Barre Phillips takes the plunge--and whether he's floating into the foreground with weighty arco lines or anchoring the music with his sturdy pizzicato, he's always fully engaged. (The bass, like the other members of the violin family, doesn't limit a player to a 12-tone scale the way a piano or vibraphone does, so it's not too surprising that Phillips could fit in.) The elder Maneri's music, like the traditional Greek songs he grew up listening to, thrives in the spaces between the steps of the Western scale; he doesn't leap from note to note but slides and glides between them, and this gives his playing a subtle, elusive grace and heightened sensuality. On Rohnlief Mat's six-string and baritone violins engage in striking intuitive dances with his father's alto and tenor saxes and clarinet, the two of them meeting in irregular arched phrases, muted sobs, and sorrowful smears--or, as Mat puts it in the liner notes to his own So What? (Hatology), "I'm not trying to get a horn sound now, but I am trying to get horn phrasing." Joining the trio for this rare gig is drummer Randy Peterson, a regular collaborator with the Maneris; on Light Trigger (No More), a recent duet with Maneri fils, his kit sounds as languorously tactile as Mat's dark, grainy viola. Wednesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Francesca Patella.

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